By Dr. Edward D. Wiafe
The theme for this year’s World Wildlife Day 2019 aligns closely with the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life below water.
This may sound and appear far away from our daily life though, it is an opportunity to highlight the critical issues and values of aquatic life to our everyday lives. It is time to reflect on and intensify our understanding on how connected our world is and how much impact our actions are having on the oceans, rivers and waterways, and on the species, above and below water, that have come to rely on them.
The ocean contains nearly 200,000 identified species (many more yet to be accounted for) and at the same time, more than 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods. More than 50% of the oxygen in our atmosphere is produced by the ocean and therefore the health of the ocean is vital to ours too.
Our water bodies are under serious threat from illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, overfishing, plastic pollution, rising water temperatures, and acidification. Almost one-third of the world’s fish stock overexploited and other species –ranging from albatrosses to turtles – are imperiled by the unsustainable use of water resources. Each year we dump about 8 million metric tons of plastic into the ocean or 13,000 pieces of plastic litter is deposited on every square kilometer of ocean. That means that every minute a garbage truck worth of plastic makes its way to the sea. This quantum of plastic remains in its original form, while others are broken down into micro-plastics that are likely consumed by fish and other living animals and eventually find their way into our own food and water.
Few people realize that wetlands are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth. Coastal and marine wetlands are important nursery and feeding areas for species such as fish and turtles. Wetland-dependent species are in serious decline as a result of the loss of 87% of the global wetlands since 1700. Wetland loss has affected 36% of coastal and marine species.
The time is up for us to get up and save life under water. We must do the following to help:
- We must stop dumping refuse (solid and liquid waste) in our water bodies
- We must consider the right of species under water and stop polluting our water bodies
- We must eliminate plastic usage as much as possible and organize beach clean-ups
- We must fish based on the growing stock and avoid catching the young or the eggs
- We must avoid introduction of alien and invasive species
- We must spread the message on importance of aquatic life and the need to protect it
Dr. Edward D. Wiafe
Environmentalist and Dean, Faculty of Development Studies
Presbyterian University College, Ghana